By Alix Hines and Sam Isaacs
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli issues a blistering attack on federal policies in his book “The Last Line of Defense: The New Fight for American Liberty.”
As the book was released this week, it was promoted as “a must-read for every patriot” – and, at a public reading by Democrats in Richmond who believe Cuccinelli’s views are too extreme for Virginia, as a must-read for every voter.
For whatever reason, by Saturday Cucinelli’s tea party-like manifesto was No. 1 on Amazon in the “Judicial Branch” category, No. 4 in the “Conservatism & Liberalism” category and No. 18 among political memoirs.
Cuccinelli achieved those rankings on the first days of his book tour: He spoke and signed copies Friday evening at a bookstore in Fredericksburg and Saturday at Tysons Corner Center.
The book chronicles Cuccinelli’s involvement in challenging President Barack Obama’s health-care reform law (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act), the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Communications Commission.
Cuccinelli, a Republican, will face Democrat Terry McAuliffe in this year’s race for governor. But in an interview, he said his book was not written to make a statement about Virginia politics or with an eye to the November election.
“It was not written for or about the gubernatorial race. This is a book about laws, not so much about Virginia politics. It’s more about philosophy and protecting the founding vision,” he said.
Cuccinelli added that he wished the book had been released during the 2012 election season, but publisher Crown Forum decided to release it this past Tuesday.
On that day, Democrats held a book reading to draw attention to passages they think portray the author as an extremist. The Democrats clearly think the book may have a negative effect on Cuccinelli, said Stephen Farnsworth, political science professor at the University of Mary Washington.
However, Farnsworth said this is Cuccinelli’s opportunity to gain supporters, because he hasn’t publicized his run for governor as much as McAuliffe.
“The attorney general already has the Republican nomination, and what this book can do is encourage people who are interested in the Cuccinelli campaign to work a bit harder to become more involved,” Farnsworth said.
The delayed release enabled Cuccinelli to include his early January lawsuit with the EPA over stormwater runoff in Fairfax County. Cuccinelli said that suit saved taxpayers $250 million.
Cuccinelli also pointed out the book’s release came about two weeks after the Pew Research Center released a poll stating that for the first time in history, most Americans thought the federal government was a threat to freedom and liberty.
The survey found that 53 percent of American adults think the government intrudes on or impedes personal freedoms. The poll had a margin of error of 2.9 percent.
Cuccinelli, who said his favorite book is “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand, said the battle between the federal government and the Constitution is not a new topic.
“Republicans and Democrats have both challenged this. The problem is, this has been growing in regularity, and we are at a peak that we have never seen before,” he said.
Cuccinelli raised eyebrows recently among conservatives with remarks he made at the University of Virginia. Speaking to a political science class, Cuccinelli said he thinks it is “appropriate” for states to “experiment” with legalizing marijuana.
Farnsworth said that remark is a perfect example of an issue that some libertarians think the government shouldn’t be involved in. Cuccinelli’s position on marijuana legalization could help him draw support from young voters – a group Republicans have had trouble courting.
“The marijuana issue may be one of the areas where a Republican candidate like Cuccinelli can offer up something like this without really moving from his core principles on a lot of other social conservative matters,” Farnsworth said.
Something that could work in Cuccinelli’s favor, according to Farnsworth, is the fact that he doesn’t sugarcoat his political ideas.
“One other thing that distinguishes Ken Cuccinelli from some politicians is, the attorney general doesn’t really tailor his comments to maximize his public appeal. Unlike a lot of politicians who might tone things down for public conception, you hear a very explicit, conservative message from Cuccinelli,” Farnsworth said.
Cuccinelli’s rival in the gubernatorial race also has published a book. McAuliffe came out with “What A Party! My Life Among Democrats: Presidents, Candidates, Donors, Activists, Alligators, and Other Wild Animals” in 2007.
Cuccinelli said he encourages voters to give both his book and McAuliffe’s a read before the election season starts.
“I hope everyone that is voting reads both books. You will get a feel for both of us. We have radically different opinions,” he said. “Democrats want to paint me as a lone wolf, but there is a long list of views outside of the box they stereotype me in.”
Capital News Service is a student news-gathering program sponsored by the School of Mass Communications at Virginia Commonwealth University.